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To celebrate Relationships Week (20-26 July) Marian O’Connor offers some insight into how couples have coped in lockdown and the hurdles they might face as we emerge into our new normal. Couples therapy remains an option for those finding it hard.

Marian Oconnor

New couples - getting the balance right

At the beginning of lockdown new couples were given very little time to make a big decision –move in together, or face months of no physical contact.

Of those who chose to move into together, many have enjoyed building and nurturing their relationship with few distractions from the outside world. But as lockdown measures are eased, they may be finding it difficult to balance the wish to be with friends and family, with the desire to hold on to that special closeness they shared as a couple during lockdown.

Some new couples decided to put their relationship on hold while staying in touch online and now have the chance to start a physical relationship.

For those who decided not to remain in contact, the relaxation of lockdown measures has given them the chance to start dating again.

Relationships are being tested in new ways

But the world is not the same. Many people still have little contact with friends, workmates, sports teams, gym buddies, etc, but feel an acute desire to escape the loneliness of lockdown. This can lead to them placing too much pressure on new relationships.

And there’s still a lot of fear and anxiety around. People are worried about their own health and that of their friends and family. Relationships are hard at the best of times, but relationships during the pandemic are being tested in new ways with, for example, arguments about different ways to stay safe.

Established relationships - feeling trapped and anxious

Divorce enquiries are up, as well as cases of domestic violence, and a recent report from the Office for National Statistics reveals that 39 per cent of people married or in a civil partnership are reporting high levels of anxiety*.

While some couples have become closer during lockdown, others have felt an increasing sense of resentment. They have realised they are stuck at home with someone they can’t talk to and don’t want to spend much time with, so there may be a lot of repair work to do.. Or help may be needed to split as amicably as possible, especially if there are children involved.

Some of the most common causes of conflict for couples coming to us for therapy right now are:

  • Health

Where one partner is very worried about the health risks of the virus, but the other is less so.

  •  Insecurity

Where one partner is excessively using mobile phone and social media and the other is wondering why.

  • Space

Couples are finding it hard to create space for themselves individually - and as a couple, if they are living with children or extended family.

  • Children

Balancing childcare, home schooling and home-working is putting pressure on many couples, particularly if one partner feels they are doing more than their fair share.

  • Money

Anxieties about money and job prospects are often a cause of conflict, especially in uncertain times like these.

Couples who are locked in conflict, stress or hopelessness will benefit greatly from professional support. Our trained relationship therapists can help them talk about and understand their experiences and take steps to ease their distress.

To help people take their first steps into therapy online at this difficult time, Tavistock Relationships is currently offering a limited number of subsidised places at a reduced rate.

For more information, visit www.tavistockrelationships.org or call 0207 380 1960 and ask for the charity’s ‘Life after Lockdown’ offer, or read and book here

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